Student Achievement

Tracking Devices

By Debra Viadero — February 17, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If you want to understand Delaware’s success in raising achievement over the past decade or so, you might ask educators or policymakers what the state has done right, study official reports, or sift through news accounts. Or you could visit Lulu M. Ross Elementary School in Milford and read the writing on the wall.

The Standards Movement:
A Progress Report
Overview
Tracking Devices (Delaware)
Go Your Own Way (Iowa)
Boom or Bust (Nevada)

Educators at the 620-student school have plastered charts tracking its educational progress to a wall in the main lobby. Among other statistics, the charts illustrate the percentages of 3rd and 5th graders passing state math and reading tests and document the narrowing academic gaps between lower-achieving African American and Hispanic students and their white peers.

For teachers and pupils alike, the wall is an ever-present reminder of the school’s focus on improved teaching and learning. It’s also emblematic of Delaware’s longstanding drive to raise instructional quality. In 1992, the First State was among the first states to adopt teaching standards in key academic subjects, craft tests aligned closely with those standards, and create sticks and carrots to ensure that schools use them. By the end of the decade, Delaware had compiled the resulting data in a computer system that principals use to pinpoint instructional weaknesses and guide their schools’ improvement efforts.

These efforts seem to have borne fruit. On national tests in reading, Delaware moved from the lower tier of states in 1992 to well above the national average in 2005. At the elementary school level, the state chalked up the nation’s highest reading gains over that same period, and the EPE Research Center’s analysis shows that minorities and formerly low-achieving students account for much of that growth.

In reading, Delaware moved from the lower tier of states in 1992 to well above the national average in 2005.

Milford, a town of nearly 7,000 that stands between the state’s more populous northern region and the farms and beach towns of southern Delaware, offers a case in point. Gains there have coincided with schools becoming increasingly diverse in their economic, ethnic, and racial makeups. Located on the banks of the Mispillion River and once a thriving shipbuilding center, Milford has drawn a growing number of poor and minority families—mostly Hispanic—seeking work in the poultry- and seafood-processing industries.

As in other Delaware districts, Milford educators are strongly encouraged to take the new standards seriously. Superintendent Robert Smith says his district provides teachers with detailed guidance on what their students have to master and administers formative assessments four times a year to help them detect and quickly remedy any instructional weaknesses.

At Smith’s urging, Ross and a handful of other district elementary schools also adopted a “total quality management” strategy in 1998. As part of the program, teachers and students set educational goals and then measure their progress, using charts and graphs similar to those on the school’s data wall. Students also keep notebooks with their own grades and charts. “It’s really helped us focus on student learning,” says Sylvia Henderson, Ross Elementary’s principal.

Since adopting the strategy, the school has seen increases of 15 percentage points to 30 percentage points on state tests in reading, writing, and math in the 3rd and 5th grades. But educators flag a downside to progress: no more time for Thanksgiving plays, no movie rewards for good behavior, no assemblies that aren’t directly tied to the curriculum, and few enrichment activities during regular school hours.

“Yes, it’s fun and exciting to learn new things,” Henderson says. “But I think of my 4-year-old daughter, and I wonder, Is she going to be well-rounded, or is she going to have all drill and practice?”

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Achievement What Teachers Say Is the Biggest Barrier to Learning Recovery
A Khan Academy/YouGov survey of teachers explores views on unfinished learning, getting students to master concepts, and grading.
3 min read
Pre-K teacher Vera Csizmadia teaches 3-and 4-year-old students in her classroom at the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center in Palisades Park, N.J., on Sept. 16, 2021.
Almost 6 in 10 teachers said their students mastered the content they needed to during the 2021-22 school year, according to a Khan Academy/YouGov survey.
Mary Altaffer/AP
Student Achievement What the Research Says Academic Recovery From the Pandemic Will Outlast Funding by Years
While student achievement has begun to rebound, new data show a long road to return to pre-COVID performance
4 min read
Conceptual illustration of a sitting child casting a long COVID-19 shadow
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and fedrelena/iStock
Student Achievement What the Research Says 5 Things to Know About How the Pandemic Has Deepened Summer Learning Loss
Studies show the so-called "COVID slide" and summer learning loss can exacerbate each other, but schools can help break the cycle.
5 min read
Gears floating away from the inner works of a silhouetted young woman
iStock/Getty
Student Achievement Spotlight Spotlight on Tutoring
This Spotlight will help you understand tutoring as an academic recovery tool, discover how districts can expand tutoring access, and more.